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The Entitlement Generation

This post isn’t going to be a rant about how the younger generation is lazy and self-absorbed. This post was created to encourage young people to step-up to the responsibilities that lie ahead of them. There are some very honest evaluations and comparisons. And, there is some good advice from an old dude who has already lived through most of what young people will face in the next 25 years.

Lessons in Life

Bret and Aaron - Ready to RideThis post was inspired by my son Aaron. He is a typical 20-year old who is trying to find his place in this world and to make a living in tough economic times.

His perspective on life has taught me as much about being a parent as I have taught him about being an adult.

This hasn’t been an easy process for either of us. But, it seems to be working. So, I will share some of what I have learned with you.

Conflict of the Generations

A couple of days ago, I was visiting with my neighbor. And, I asked him if he missed his two daughters who had gone away to college. His answer surprised me. He said, “No, it was a perfect time for them to go. They have had enough of us and we have had enough of them.” He loves his daughters and is very proud of them. And, they are both really great kids. Of course he misses them. But, he is happy the house is peaceful and quiet. He no longer has to argue with his kids and a great weight of responsibility has been lifted from his shoulders.

Children’s Side of the Conflict

Conflict –Young adults believe they are entitled to all of the rights, freedom and privileges of other adults. And they resent being told what to do and when they can do it. They are trying to express themselves freely and live their lives as adults. But, their parents still treat them like children and are constantly nagging them.

Considerations – What kids may not realize is they haven’t yet earned the rights or freedom of an adult. If they are still dependent on their parents, they still have to live by their parent’s rules. And, their parents are still responsible for them in many of ways, even though they have turned 18. Also, parents worry about them whenever they are out late or engaged in dangerous behavior.

Solution –If kids believe parents are interfering with their life, they should move out and pay their own way. The rewards and experience of living on their own will greatly outweigh the tight finances. And, they will be able to make their own decisions. If they are being supported through college, they need to respect and appreciate the sacrifice their parents are making. Most important, they will need to think and act like an adult, before others will begin to treat them as an adult.

Parent’s Side of the Conflict

Conflict – Parents may see their adult children as lazy and irresponsible. Their kids may not contribute to the family financially or by helping out around the house. They may leave messes everywhere and argue constantly. Parents may have to nag them frequently to do the simplest things. Kids may feel entitled to cars, cell phones, computers and a college education, which parents had to earn for themselves.

Considerations – What parents may not realize is their children haven’t yet learned about finances or how it affects their standing in society. And, society is now more protective, which places a higher burden on parents and less accountability from children. Other kids are receiving cars, computers and cell phones, which is why they feel entitled.

Solution – Parents need to stop subsidizing an idle lifestyle and insist their children contribute whatever they can. Parents need to teach their children about finances, even if they aren’t shining examples. Parents need to explain how much money it costs to live and why kids need to choose a career that will support them and their future family. Most important, parents need to prepare their children to become financially and emotionally independent.

The Game of Life

I remember playing a board game called Life when I was a kid. As I moved around the board and landed on squares, I was able to graduate college, get a job, get married and have children. At age 10, I didn’t realize the significance of this game. At age 45, I understand it completely. Unfortunately, accomplishing these goals in real life is much more difficult. So, planning and execution are critical.

How I Played the Game

Goal Action Result
House I started saving for a house when I was 21. The last two years, I saved the difference between rent and mortgage. At 31, I bought a nice house at the beach for cheap. We have a small mortgage, low taxes and a nice lifestyle.
Family I met a girl with a baby boy and fell in love. We moved in together after 3 months and got married within a year. We lived in poverty for many years and accumulated a lot of credit card debt. We used to fight a lot over money.
College I started college right out of high school. But, I dropped in and out 3 times and didn’t graduate until I was 37. I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, because I didn’t have the education to advance in my career.
Career At 21, I quit my union job to work in the computer field. But, I didn’t have a proper education or experience. I spent almost a decade being underpaid. But, this was a great move later in my life. I do pretty well now.

Final Score – My goals that were planned well and executed well turned out well. Goals that weren’t planned well caused me a lot of financial hardship. Goals that weren’t executed well cost me dearly.

Future Considerations

The future for young adults in America is more uncertain than at any time I can remember. Your parents have lived through recessions and tough economic times before. Young people may not realize this, but the economy, housing and the stock market move in cycles. So, they have crashed in the past and they will crash in the future. This is natural and should be expected. In fact, you should prepare for it. What is different this time are some of the new problems in America that your parents didn’t have. Here are the new issues you will face:

Irresponsible Government – Never has the burden of our Government looked so ominous. The corruption, bickering and reckless spending has put America in a very bad position. Younger generations may be facing a future where America is not the leader of the free world.  You may face higher inflation, taxes, currency devaluation, unemployment and failing infrastructure, courtesy of the disaster that is our Government.

Income Disparity – Everyone knows the rich are getting richer and the rest are getting poorer. The working class is disappearing, along with the jobs that used to support them.  There are many reasons for this including greed, corruption, globalization and our transition to a knowledge economy.  The net effect is there won’t be many good jobs for the uneducated.  So, unless you can live on $9 per hour from a McJob, you better plan on going to college or starting a business.

Aging Population – Because of the demographics of the Baby Boomers and because fewer children are being born, you will be saddled with an incredible burden from the aging population.  This problem is already occurring in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.  This burden may become overwhelming, considering our Government’s mishandling of Social Security and Medicare.  You may have to personally take care of your loved ones in the final days of their lives.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that you will decide how to run your life and accomplish your goals.  And, you will have to live with the results from your efforts.  And one day, if you are very lucky, you will have to pass your experience onto the next generation.

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”

Thomas Jefferson – Founding Father of America

Recommended Reading

This post was featured on the Carnival of Personal Finance. If you aren’t familiar with the Carnival of Personal Finance, it’s the premiere carnival of its kind. If you want to read informative articles from knowledgeable bloggers, this is the place.

8 comments to The Entitlement Generation

  • “…society is now more protective, which places a higher burden on parents and less accountability from children.”

    Spot on, Bret, as is your observation that young adults believe they are entitled to all of the rights, freedom and privileges of other adults.

    My older cousin and I were talking the other day about the moment that we should start considering our kids to be adults. We both agreed that the threshold is crossed only after the kids are living away from home and completely supporting themselves with no help from us.

    I am afraid the entitlement mentality is a sign of our nation’s inevitable decline. Most great civilizations are truly at the top of their game for more than a hundred years or so.

    That’s just the way it is. We’ve had it too easy for too long and the destructive entitlement mentality is the end result.

    It is up to us as parents to do our best to minimize it in our kids.

    My $0.02 (after taxes),

    Len

  • Last Friday, I got an email letting me know that my 8th grade son’s grades were posted. He had straight A’s except for one B in Language Arts. He is in honors Language Arts, and Geometry (two grade levels above average), so I was pleased with his effort.

    He was too, and he tried to parlay his grades into a new video game, saying that Mom’s pride is nice and all, but …

    It didn’t work, of course. I told him that the real benefit of getting good grades is that it will help him get a good job so that he doesn’t end up living in Mom’s basement begging for video games when he’s 40, but I have to admit that a little part of me was thinking, “I hope I’m right about that.”

    I know it’s typical for every generation to think that about the good old days and how things are so much worse now, but … what if it’s true? We’ve moved into such disparity between CEO and worker salary, total power by corporations, disregard for the “middle” class … sure, we’re all fat and relatively comfortable, but it’s a farce.

    Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood this morning. 😉

  • @Len

    I don’t know if our democracy is failing. But nothing the Government is doing right now is helping to strengthen our country.

    One of the most positive political changes I have seen is reform of the welfare system. Now, we are going backwards in a hurry. And, all of the handouts seem to be going to the wealthy.

    @Andrea,

    Good for you for not giving in on the video game. I’m glad your son is doing so well in school. I stopped buying my kids video games years ago and their grades aren’t so hot.

    Two days ago, I ran into a kid I know at Walmart, where he was working. I asked him if he was going to college and he said he was taking swimming. I asked what his major was and he said “College isn’t for me. I have ADHD and can’t pay attention long enough to do well in school.” This broke my heart. This is a good-hearted person and he is facing a life of poverty.

    Anyway, I told him that I think kids are over-stimulated nowdays. I told him that we had to do our work with pencils and we had to think out long complex problems in our minds and on paper. I don’t think the video games, MySpace and texting help kids to concentrate.

  • Entitlement comes when life gets too good. A rich kid feels more entitled because he or she has more stuff (unlike a poor kid).

    This could be the entitlement generation because there are programs in place that make us feel that way. We have social security, medicare. So it makes us feel that once we reach “retirement age”, things will be taken care off.

    But truth of the matter is that we have not saved up for this entitlement. The bill is simply passed on to the next generation. Our social security is “pay as you go”. There are many countries (like Australia) that do not have a pay and you go system. There have “forced savings”, kind off like payroll tax, in which a portion of your money is paid into a “social security” like account.

    Yet, we tell other nations to be more “like us”, spend and boost “domestic consumption!”.

    Anyway, we are in a decline. But it can be arrested. But big daddy government has to tell their kids (us) that they will not buy us any video games anymore!!

  • Time for a 21 year old to chime in:

    I took my 13 year old brother for a bike ride through some popular trails in the area. He told me he had never been there before. I was completely shocked. He then told me that none of his friends have bikes.

    Think about that. There is a higher chance a young person owns a video game system than an actual bike (not some Nintendo Wii bike simulation).

    There are simply too many distractions.

    I am not perfect either but luckily for me I have been using the internet to educate myself. I start my own personal finance blog to hold myself accountable for my productive and money management.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and I hope to see you around more!

  • Holly

    What a great post! We are all guilty to a certain extent to that sense of entitlement, as you said. If we are poor, there’s welfare and subsidized housing/education; if you’re well-off, there’s more where that came from; if you’re old, there’s ss and medicare/medicaid. Crazy, but who’s paying for it!?! Who is teaching good lessons regarding fiscal responsibility to the next generation? Seems we still have a lot to learn about the game of ‘Life’!

  • You have a great writing style.I discovered your blog post from Bing and liked it. Have you been writing for long?Just the other day I recently started a blog myself and its been a very fun process. I’ve met some interesting friends since then but it is tough at times! Once more, thanks a ton for your post!

    • Tamatha,

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words about my writing style. I have been posting on my blog for just over three years now, but it wasn’t always called Hope to Prosper.

      The first year, I had trouble creating posts on a regular basis. When I look back at my early posts, it seems as though my writing has improved. I spend a lot of time on each post, which is why I only post around once a week.

      I like your blog on bycicles. I’m a mountain biker myself and I rode a BMX bike everywhere as a kid. As you are probably figuring out, it’s a lot of work to maintain a blog. But, meeting and interacting with people is the fun part. Keep it up and good luck with your blog.